Wednesday, June 8, 2005

RSS Reader: stand-alone, integrated in mail client or web browser, or fully web based?

Like many more people, I am getting more and more interested in reading web logs of people all over the web. Although I personally feel that the blogging phenomenon is interesting, I also feel that is gets more attention than it is worth. In last year's New York City edition of the International Conference on Service-Oriented Computing, Adam Bosworth delivered a keynote speech in which he touched upon RSS and Atom and their role in the dissemination of information. Later that year, Communications of the ACM dedicated their December issue to "The Blogosphere".

But, I digress. To keep track of web logs, a type of tool called an RSS Reader can be very valuable. I my search for an RSS reader that meets my personal wishes, I have been thinking about my ideal RSS reader. Should it be a separate application, or should it maybe be intergrated in another information processing application, such as a web browser or an email client?

Ideally, I want software that is portable and usable from anywhere in the world. For all intents and purposes, that requirement excludes stand-alone applications. Applications are written for an operation system, and while I prefer a Linux based solution, I also know that I will not be able to always use a Linux system.

Integration with an email client (stand-alone, or web-based) is also not something that I am a big fan of. When processing email, I am generally in a completely different mindset than when I am reading blogs. Since my email system pretty much provides me with a workflow management system, and any item in my incoming mailbox generally means that I have more work ahead of me, I prefer to keep my inbox as small as possible. Mailing lists to which I subscribe get delivered to different mailfolders, which for all intents and purposes are invisible until I decide to look at them. It seems that Steve agrees with me on this one.

Integration with a web-browser is a nice solution, since I am in full control of what happens. I decide the speed by which I browse, and where I browse to, and the web is commonly available wherever I am. The current RSS reader that I use is Sage, which is an extension that lives within Mozilla Firefox. The major disadvantage of this browser is that it is still location specific; my RSS feed URLs reside locally on my disk as a bookmarks folder and can only be shared over a network if I place those bookmarks on a network accessible location.

In my opinion, the ideal RSS reader is one that is fully web-based. I would like to be able to access my collection from anywhere in the world by pointing a browser to a web site, and have the ability to manage my feeds via that web site. That RSS reader should also be able to keep a full history of the articles that I already read, and be good enough to allow me different perspectives on my feed collection.

So far, I have not found such a web application yet. Maybe, if I have enough time, I will make it myself.

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